S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/07.0923.retire.htm

Black South Carolinians aren't monolithic politically
By Andy Brack, Publisher

SEPT. 23, 2007 - - You always hear that making assumptions is something you don't want to do because they could come back and haunt you.

For years, white politicians - - particularly Democrats - - have made assumptions that black voters were some kind of uniform group that could be counted on to act in a particular way. In other words, they assumed year after year that blacks would vote for Democrats.

A new poll of black South Carolinians by Winthrop University and SCETV may shatter preconceived notions about black voters. In short, the poll suggests blacks aren't a monolithic group that behaves in one particular way.


If you'd like to take a look at the full results of the Winthrop/SCETV poll, click here.

"The assumption was blacks are uniformly liberal," said Scott Huffmon, who conducted the poll at Winthrop's Social and Behavioral Research Lab. "No, they're not.

"There's a higher chance of a black South Carolinian saying he is liberal than a white South Carolinian, but if you speak to 1,000 African Americans here, only 121 are going to say, 'I'm very conservative' and only 119 are going to say, 'I'm very liberal.'"

In fact, one out of every three blacks in the state - some 31.5 percent - say they're very conservative or somewhat conservative. A similar group of white South Carolina voters in an earlier poll showed about half said they were very conservative or somewhat conservative, Huffmon said.

The point, is, however, that black South Carolinians are as different politically as whites, as several black leaders point out.

"The white community is as diverse as any community in the world," said the Rev. Dallas Wilson Jr., who pastors in the poor Eastside area of Charleston. "The black community is even more diverse."

Professor John Simpkins of the Charleston School of Law wasn't particularly surprised by the poll's results. For years, he's said the reason a Republican politician like Strom Thurmond was able to attract black support was because his conservative values appealed to a portion of the black electorate.

David Smalls, president of the Walterboro-Colleton County Chamber of Commerce, said he found the poll results to be interesting, but also not surprising.

"My experience is African Americans aren't as liberal as people say, but they are moderate," he said. "On some social issues, they are pretty conservative."

Among results of the poll:

  • Abortion: 29 percent of black South Carolinians said abortion should be illegal; 56 percent said it should be legal only under certain circumstances.

  • Homosexuality: 62 percent of blacks felt sex between two adults of the same sex was strongly unacceptable.

  • Interracial marriage: 63 percent of blacks thought interracial marriage was strongly acceptable.

  • Bush: 90 percent disapprove of President George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq war.

  • War: 84 percent believe there should be a timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq.


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Interestingly, 67 percent of black South Carolinians said they were Democratic, while only 3 percent said they were Republican. But more than half said they thought the national and state Democratic parties had taken black voters for granted. About the same number said the GOP was working to attract black voters.

Why black voters tend to vote for Democrats over Republicans may do more with specific issues, such as political approaches to education, the Iraq War or government's role in society. But Smalls said he could see how conservative politicians could make inroads in the black community by appealing to issues on which they tended to be conservative.

Bottom line: Because blacks aren't monolithic, politicians of all stripes shouldn't assume they can't win black votes. Republicans have opportunities they're not tapping. And if Democrats don't treat black voters as a diverse constituency, they could lose what has been a strong base.

Andy Brack, publisher of Statehouse Report, can be reached at: brack@statehousereport.com.

Recent commentary

Red dot stores pique curiosity

A phenomenon that piques the curiosity of both visitors and lifelong residents: why do South Carolina liquor stores display red dot? The answer lies in a heated battle between drys and wets that developed when liquor sales became legal again in 1935 after Prohibition. During the ensuing decade, those selling booze, diehard Prohibitionists and the State Tax Commission (given the task of regulating this revived trade) wrangled constantly over on-site advertising.

Note the red dots on this liquor store in Pickens County. No other sign indicates the store sells liquor.

Storefront ads so infuriated Upcountry drys that in 1938 authorities decreed that only a discreet "Retail Liquor Dealer" sign could be displayed. Seven years later, they decided to reduce any such sign to letters only a few inches high placed in the lower right-hand corner of a display window or on the front door. Liquor stores of that era had no back door.


S.C. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with an interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Each excerpt, which is used with permission and not for republication, is taken from The South Carolina Encyclopedia, a 1,077-page book published in 2006 with entries by almost 600 contributors and edited by noted historian Walter Edgar. We hope you enjoy this new feature.

Under these circumstances, Jesse J. Fabian, a successful Charleston liquor dealer, hired "Doc" Wansley to create a legal sign for one of his shops. When it was completed, Wansley realized that few would notice such minuscule lettering and, inspired by a design then found on every pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes, drew a bright red circle around his masterpiece. Thus was born South Carolina's famous red dot.

These now-familiar circles grew and prospered until January 1968, when the ABC suddenly ruled that these constituted advertising and should be banished from the landscape. The General Assembly voted instead to save the dot, although members agreed that on each exterior wall of a store, there could be only one dot, not to exceed 36 inches in diameter. These subsequent rules have been relaxed somewhat, but into the 21st century, the red dot remained a faithful beacon for those seeking liquor, as well as a warning sign for those determined to avoid it.

-- Entry by John H. Moore, The South Carolina Encyclopedia

lighter side
Hi-def guy

Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:

9/18: State needs affordable medical help, birth control

To Statehouse Report:

It's more than just teaching kids the facts in school (Commentary, 9/9). We as a state also need to make safe affordable medical help and birth control available to our teenagers. It's a shame that there are only 2 Planned Parenthood clinics in our state.

As a young college student I relied on Planned Parenthood for affordable gynecological check ups and birth control. Planned Parenthood has a long tradition of providing safe and affordable much needed medical help and birth control to sexually active women and men for that matter. The abortion debate has demonized this proud organization and made it damn near impossible to fund raise or establish clinics in areas where they could be most effective including Greenville-Spartanburg and the rural areas of SC.

-- Roxanne Walker, Greenville, S.C. (See her blog)

Recent feedback

9/11: Some good points in sex Ed column, Anne Badgley, Charleston, SC
Why insurance companies want to cancel policies, Dan Norfleet, Summerville, SC
Australia is tip of iceberg, John P. Ford, Sumter, S.C.

8/13: Americans have grown apathetic, David Whetsell, Lexington, S.C.
7/30: Queensland has enterprising spirit, Sandra Plock, Sumter, SC
Domestic violence laws may be used wrongly, Marty Hicks, Mount Pleasant, SC
6/26: Brack is inconsistent, Bill Rentiers III, Lexington, SC
6/14: East Edisto would be boon to ACE Basin, Maggie Ridge, Hollywood, SC
6/12: Protect large tracts, Benjamin Lennon, Short Hills, NJ

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Drummond to retire
By Bill Davis, editor
Exclusive from the paid-subscriber issue of Statehouse Report

SEPT. 21, 2007 -- State Sen. John Drummond (D-Greenwood) confirmed this week in an exclusive story to S.C. Statehouse Report that he would not seek reelection, ensuring that the 2008 session of the General Assembly will not only be his 43rd, but also his last.

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  • NUMBER OF THE WEEK: $42,100
  • NEWS: Drummond to retire
  • AGENDA: Little ahead
  • RADAR SCREEN: Judicial discretion
  • PALMETTO POLITICS: Sanford baffles lawmakers
  • SCORECARD: Who's up and down for the last week
  • MEGAPHONE: For sale: Swampland, bridge

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Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. No republication is allowed.